What to do if your child doesn’t get the primary school place you want

Primary school
Primary school

Today parents across Sussex and the rest of in England discover the primary school where their child has been offered a place for the start of the new academic year in September.

All children born between 1st September 2014 and 31st August 2015 are eligible for a September school place.

The Good Schools Guide predicts that although the majority of children will be given a place at their first-choice school, many will still miss out.

Parents who are disappointed with their allocated school may consider the appeals process.

However, according to the most recent government data, the success rate of school appeals varies greatly throughout the country.

In the 2017/2018 academic year, 12.2% of infant class appeals heard in England were decided in the child’s favour, but in London the success rate was only 3.5%, with many local authorities not recording a single successful appeal.

Elizabeth Coatman, a state education consultant at The Good Schools Guide, says that despite a levelling off in applications, primary schools are still being stretched.

“The large year on year increases in pupil numbers which primary schools were experiencing have now graduated to secondary school.”

But places at the most popular primary schools in many parts of the country are still in short supply and parents are fearful of having to send their children to less desirable schools.

The Good School Guide says: “We know the education funding crisis is compounding things for schools which were already struggling. For parents whose children will be expected to take the first steps of their education career at one of these underperforming schools, it is extremely concerning. Appealing is an option, but however unfair it may feel, siblings attending other schools, super-sized classes and poor OFSTED reports are unlikely to be successful grounds for appeal.”

A free pdf containing advice on what to do after receiving a disappointing Primary School offer is available to download from The Good Schools Guide’s homepage. Ms Coatman recommends the following to parents who don’t get their preferred choice of school:

- You must accept the place you’ve been offered. Tracking down an alternative over the next month is not out of the question, but if the initial offer is not accepted, there’s a chance that your child won’t have any school to attend come September;

- Once you’ve accepted the place, write down the schools you would have preferred and attempt to get onto their waiting lists – this can even be schools not on your original application. Between now and the beginning of the new academic year all kinds of moving around happens and some places are bound to materialise.

- Have a closer look at the school you’ve been allocated. There’s a chance that you have been making a judgement based on out of date information. When was the most recent OFSTED inspection and have things improved since? Perhaps the local reputation of the school is based on a previous headteacher or board of governors and is now unjustified. Go to the school gates at pick-up time and talk to parents with children already at the school.

- Try not to let on to your child how much you hate the school at which they’ve been given a place. If you’re negative about the school but then fail to find another one, your child may start at the new school feeling they’re starting a seven-year sentence.

- If you feel you have no choice but to appeal, you must remember that you can only appeal to the schools to which you previously applied. Each school will require a separate appeal. The grounds for a legitimate appeal will be published on your local authority website: the bar for success is very high. You’ll need to prove a mistake was made when the admissions process was carried out, that the admissions policy is unlawful or that no reasonable person would come to that admissions decision – ‘reasonable’ being used in the legal sense.

This entails proving the negative impact on the school caused by going over numbers is out-weighed by the potential disadvantage to your child, and that only this particular school can meet their needs. This may require supporting professional evidence.